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Etiquette for Kids

September 13, 2021

Etiquette begins at home. From the simple lessons of "please and thank you" to sitting together and eating without making a mess or grossing out others, children are capable of practicing good manners. In our family there was always at least one meal a day where we especially practiced those manners – at the dinner table. 

Mother got out the second best dinnerware and taught us how to set the table for a proper meal. On special occasions she spread a fancy table cloth and brought out the good china, the good napkins, and the silverware. We dressed up before coming to the table, and as we ate, we used the right utensils, used our napkins, and participated in the conversation.

One of the most difficult things for very young children is sitting still. I was probably four or five years old before I was taken to a family style restaurant. I knew to stay in my seat, and though I was very shy with strangers, I was able – with encouragement – to tell the waitress what I wanted (a fried chicken leg, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, and milk). There may have been pie or ice cream included, but the big deal for me was having a meal that grown-ups would also eat. I used a napkin and did not get up until everyone else was ready to go.

As I grew older, I learned to practice proper etiquette in other situations. When I went to the library I used my inside voice and as much as I wanted to, I did not run inside nor pull all the books off the shelves willy-nilly. At school, I learned to take turns and play well with others.

With good teaching and by example, children can enjoy learning and practicing good manners in their lives. Good manners  are a gift that anyone can give their child. Many books have been written on manners and proper etiquette for people of all ages. Some of my favorite from Nashville Public Library's catalog are listed below.

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Donna Reagan has served as Children's Specialist at the Bellevue Branch Library since 2002. She produces My Storytime Place, a local TV show for young children. The ALA's Every Child Ready to Read initiative forms the foundation of her early childhood programming.